Movie Review: “300: Rise of an Empire” – Blood, Sweat, and Baby Oil

Written by Jesse Gelinas March 11, 2014

Themistocles of Athens, and Queen Gorgo of Sparta in "300: Rise of an Empire"“For glory’s sake… WAR!”

Believe it or not, there’s not enough unbridled testosterone in the world. So every now and then, we need a film like “300” to remind us what it means to be men. Muscles, body sheen, capes, spears, front kicks, war cries, you know, MAN THINGS! Unfortunately, sometimes the women forget this crucial lesson as well. Hence, “300: Rise of an Empire”, where even the women have massive balls and can dismember with the best of them. Oh, ancient Greece, how I love your historical ambiguity.

“300: Rise of an Empire” takes place concurrently with the first film. Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), the General of the Athenian army, is trying to unite Greece under one banner against the Persians. With few resources, and fewer ships, Themistocles makes his stand against the Persian navy. On the Persian side, the navy is commanded by Artemisia (Eva Green), a Greek born, Persian raised woman of unmatched tactical skills and ferociousness. It’s a rather simple setup, handsome good guys versus faceless (apart from Artemisia) villains. This simple setup can be partially attributed to the script’s lack of source material. Unlike “300”, the sequel was written concurrently with the graphic novel it was supposed to be based on, without consultation, leading to two completely different stories. Hollywood is just that impatient.

“Athens will be erased from the histories.”

Eva Green as Artemisia in "300: Rise of an Empire"

For fans of “300”, “Rise of an Empire” offers much of the same. The action is extreme and the violence is over the top. The effects look cool and allow the stylized comic aesthetic to be enjoyed. Even with the change in directors, there’s actually very little difference between the films. The style, look, music, etc. are all just about the same. Noam Murro obviously studied Snyder’s moves pretty closely. The similarities are uncanny, and, at times, almost distracting. I know we expect a certain style with a sequel to “300”, but I also expected the director to have his own little flair, and Murro seemingly has none.

“Today we will dance upon the backs of dead Greeks.”

The problem with the film being so similar to the first “300” is that very little of it stands out on its own merits. Much of it is quite entertaining, but I can’t think of a single scene that actually strikes me as memorable. The third naval battle contains quite a lot of fire and explosions, which was pretty cool. That’s about it. The only noteworthy aspect of the film is Eva Green. The woman is perfect as the bloodthirsty, vengeful she-warrior, and is actually a pretty good foil to Stapleton’s Themistocles, who just sort of manages to be almost as charismatic as Gerard Butler. Their scenes together work well, and their fight scene is one of the more exciting battles in the film. Lena Headey also shows up for a few short scenes, and is a pleasure to see as always.

Themistocles in "300: Rise of an Empire"

Overall, “300: Rise of an Empire” is a lot of fun. There are lots of cool visuals, badass action scenes, and a handful of impressive performances. I guess my main disappointment is that none of this separates it from its predecessor. Maybe that’s too much to ask for this kind of film, but I like to think not. There’s no reason to believe we have to handle action flicks with kid gloves, holding them to different standards. Then again, the series seems to hold itself to a different set of standards anyway, with, you know, MAN THINGS!

My Rating: 6.5/10

Theatrical poster for "300: Rise of an Empire"

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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